When Adam and I discovered that our hardwood floors weren’t in as great of shape as we hoped, we needed a relatively easy and very inexpensive way to cover them. After decades of being covered up by carpet and not cared for, the wood is basically untreated and has lots of spots of damage. We decided to try making our own floor cloths. You had me at “originated in France in the 1400s.”
Floor cloths are an easy and cost-effective to cover up the large spaces in our home (our dining room is 15′ x 12′ and our living room is 15′ x 15′) without handing over thousands for new carpets or new hardwood floors right away.
All the materials you’ll need:
- Canvas or Duck Cloth – we used #10 Natural Cotton Duck Fabric – 60″ wide. We ordered 36 yards of it from OnlineFabricStore.Net. It came on a massive roll and worked just fine. You can use primed canvas from the craft store, we chose not to.
- Tape – we went through several types of painters tape through this process. Marking off 4 yards takes a lot of tape. You may also want a ruler.
- Paint – We used regular Glidden house paint (Color: Night Watch) because we knew we wanted a custom color and that we would use a LOT of it. You can use whatever paint you like, though I recommend water-based (remember my hair?)
- Water-based Polyurethane – we went through just over 1 large bottle on our first two mats, and we might need to do another coat. Plan accordingly, this is the most expensive part.
- Rollers and trays – I recommend a foam roller to do any designs. You’ll have more control and less splatter. You’ll also need two trays: one for paint, one for Poly. DON’T use a paint brush. A foam brush is fine.
- Drop cloths – just trust me, you’ll want them.
Optional supplies: Knee pads. Depending on how much work you’re doing and whether your cloth is large or small, your knees may start hating you.
Set up in a place where you have plenty of room and where you can leave your floor cloths to dry without any husbands, children, or puppies stepping in the wet paint. We used our basement. Now, let’s get started!
Step 1: Mark off your design
Adam was a darling and marked off the stripes that I wanted. Then, he did it again when I said they weren’t quite right. I owe him (and his knees) for doing this.
He used a ruler and a yard stick to tape off stripes that were 10″ wide. Because we needed two cloths in our dining room, we wanted them to look like a matched set. We measured from the middle and left 5″ of plain canvas on each side.
Make sure you run your fingers over the seams. This will minimize any paint running under the tape.
Step 2: Start Painting
I started going over each stripe really thickly. Then I realized I would have to do a second coat anyway, and started saving my time and energy doing a quick, lighter coat. Also, make sure you are using a foam roller to paint on any designs. This will help them come out cleaner and more precise.
This is when I figured out that you get paint ALL over yourself. Don’t put your hands where you want the canvas to be blank. Put them in the pieces you are painting. This way you can just paint over any little dribbles or smudges your fingers leave behind.
Here we are after the first coat. Let it dry overnight and put a fan on if needed.
If you get paint on your feet you are done for the day.
Getting paint on your feet is an easy way to spread it everywhere and mess up your design. Luckily I could stand and paint the last bit and not worry about my poor feet.
This is what your floor cloth will look like after you’re done painting it. Don’t worry about those wrinkles, they’ll go away in a minute.
Remember how I warned you to press the tape down and NOT use a paint brush? This is why.
On our second floor cloth, I didn’t take the time to press the tape, and I tried to speed up the painting by using a paint brush on the edges. This one is not nearly as crisp as the first floor cloth, where I only used the foam roller.
So make sure you use a foam roller or a foam brush if you are doing more intricate designs. If you’re not taping anything off, then use whatever you want.
This is what the back looks like. The paint did bleed through a bit, but it didn’t stick to the drop cloths.
Step 3: Coat with Polyurethane
For this step, you can use whatever roller you like. I used an extra paint roller lying around the house.
Here’s where you get all those wrinkles out.
The Poly will naturally flatten out those wrinkles. If you have stubborn ones, grab a paint stirrer or ruler (something with a hard, flat edge) and press along the wrinkle to smooth it. The roll over it as many times as it takes until you feel the wrinkle isn’t going to get any flatter.
See how much flatter the right side is than the left? The Polyurethane really flattens the wrinkles out.
Once you’re done with the top, wait about an hour then go back and lift the floor cloth off the drop cloth. The Poly will soak through and you don’t want your drop cloth being stuck to your floor cloth. Put a fan on it overnight if needed.
We only applied one super-thick coat of Polyurethane. We also applied a thin coat to the back. I will probably end up going back and putting a second coat on the pieces that aren’t painted to make them more durable.
Lay your new floor cloths and enjoy!
We had these out for our housewarming party this weekend and they were a huge hit. We also figured out that the white sections need another coat of Polyurethane. Spilled liquids are soaking through more than I imagined, so an extra coat should help prevent that.
Also, these babies are supposed to be super-easy to clean. Like with a mop. I’ve been able to sweep them, and spills have been cleaned up with a sponge. With some extra Poly on the white stripes, it should be even easier.
What would I do differently?
- Not use a paint brush on the edges of my stripes
- Coat the blank stripes with Polyurethane at the same time as the paint to speed up the process and make those sections stronger
- Use smaller pieces of fabric – these 12′ pieces were a pain to handle. Though they do look super pretty!
Now I just have to design and make the set for the living room! What do you think? Would you try a floor cloth in your home?